Tag Archive for 'Texas'

AlmostAGhost’s Top Albums Of 2012: #20. Gary Clark Jr. – Blak And Blu

Gary Clark Jr. Blak And Blu

when my train pulls in

It’s been a long while since I was really into blues guitar shredding, but it takes someone as ferociously skilled as Gary Clark Jr. to bring it back. He brings diversity to it, makes it modern: mixing soul and hiphop into the more typical blues rock grooves. He can straight-up cover Jimi Hendrix, finding his own space in the song. I mean, come on. How is that possible? Skills. And being a badass.

Gary Clark Jr. “Numb”

Gary Clark Jr. “Next Door Neighbor Blues”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Top Albums Of 2012: #30. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits

A Thing Called Divine Fits

living nostalgia like ice cream

Divine Fits is a “supergroup” of sorts, a phenomenally cool rock band made primarily of Britt Daniel (the main guy from Spoon, and most of the songs here sound like Spoon tracks) and Dan Boechner (of Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs).

Divine Fits “Would That Not Be Nice”

Divine Fits “Like Ice Cream”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2011 – #13. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

a champagne year full of sober months

My favorite songwriters, if not clear from these reviews, are, above all, thoughtful. They think about life and society and love and people and whatever. They do not just write to write, but write to figure things out. Annie Clark (St. Vincent) is one of those songwriters and Strange Mercy showcases this. Her songs use abstract stories and various characters as a way to reflect. Because of this, different people may get different things out of it — it is that rare adaptable record, fitting each listener in their own way.

There are stories of an affair (“Chloe In The Afternoon”), a man in prison (“Strange Mercy”), successful businessperson (“Year Of The Tiger”), Marilyn Monroe (“Surgeon”). “Dilettante” sees her comparing someone to a “party I heard through a wall / I’m always watching you through the keyhole.” Of course she is, that’s how she writes about all these things — Clark is clearly watching the world.

“They could take you or leave you / So they took you and they left you / How could they be casually cruel?” Clark wonders on “Cruel.” This leads directly into “Cheerleader,” where she sings from the point-of-view of the cruel, “I’ve told whole lies with a half smile / I’ve thrown rocks then hid both my arms.” Clark takes all these different angles, and leave you feeling like you’ve just been told of her personal discoveries about life. “It’s not a perfect plan / but it’s the one we’ve got,” she sings on “Champagne Year.”

St. Vincent, however, goes in the opposite direction with her music. The unbridled and unrestrained music act as a counterpoint to the thoughtful stories. Clark has become a pretty great guitarist, and she drops guitar spasms all over “Chloe In The Afternoon” and “Cruel,” a bizarre little solo on “Surgeon,” a rapturous build on “Northern Lights.” The joy of her music is absolutely evident, and her breathless vocals bring even more passion.

Strange Mercy consistently fits these two sides — Apollonian reason and Dionysian instinct — together perfectly. It makes a huge impression, one of the best records of 2011.

St. Vincent “Northern Lights”

St. Vincent “Surgeon”

- almostaghost

AlmostAGhost Thoughts On A Song: Iron & Wine “Tree By The River”

Iron & Wine

time isn't kind or unkind

A couple of weeks ago, Iron & Wine dropped their new album, Kiss Each Other Clean. Interestingly, they performed a show here in Los Angeles on the day the album was released, allowing me an opportunity to experience the new songs live before hearing the record. The show was pretty good, and my only real critique was I wished for more acoustic songs, since that is what Sam Beam is truly an expert in. He did a couple, but most of the tracks were laidback rock songs, with horns and background singers and drums and I think there were something like 11 people on stage. Of course, I found out later, that’s what the new album is, so I guess the show fit.

Anyway, I don’t mean to review Kiss Each Other Clean, as I don’t quite have my head all around it yet. (Short review: not entirely sold on the new sound but the songs are generally awesome.) But one song in particular, “Tree By The River,” was something I felt like reflecting on.

“Tree By The River” begins with “Maryanne, do you remember that tree by the river when we were seventeen?” Many of Sam Beam’s standout songs are wistful in nature like this, from his early “Bird Stealing Bread” (“I’ve not seen you lately on the street by the beach or places we used to go / I’ve a picture of you on our favorite day by the seaside”) to the emotional “Passing Afternoon” (“only now I do believe sometimes, with the window closed, she’ll sit and think of me”) to the epic “Trapeze Swinger” (each verse starts with “please remember me”). “Tree By The River” is yet another song about remembering the past, with a tinge of melancholy, but with a matter-of-fact acceptance that sometimes things just drift away.

Before this turns into a “whoa Iron & Wine did it again!” post, I’m not real sure yet if he did. The difference in “Tree By The River” is that basically this is a song about a tree. There is an almost stark lack of symbolism and poetics in “Tree By The River,” which made Beam’s earlier songs so memorable. Nothing happens at this tree. There’s no birds stealing bread out from under his nose, no frightened circus acts overhead, which are clear metaphors. He does reminisce about the sun, a wall, a horse near the tree, but they’re incidental, and the song expresses a very vague memory.

There is some slight framing of the memory, as the repeated verse: “‘Time isn’t kind or unkind’ you liked to say / But I wonder to who and what it is you’re saying today.” This I think is the prototypical Iron & Wine verse. “Time isn’t kind or unkind” gets to that matter-of-fact acceptance I mentioned earlier, and clearly expresses the main theme in many many of Beam’s songs. Tie that to the loss of love hinted at in “I wonder to who and what it is you’re saying today” and pretty much this is Iron & Wine to a tee.

While Beam has always been a master at just saying enough to a story to maintain mystery but still be effective, perhaps then the stark plainness of this song was a conscious decision to cut away all the moments and images he usually puts in his songs. And what’s left is a simply expressed, yet still emotional, lyric that almost everyone could relate to: “Marianne, we were in love when we were young and remember that tree? Where are you now?”

Have a listen:
Iron & Wine “Tree By The River”

- almostaghost